As a physical education major, you can almost guarantee that your future career will be an active one. Whether you aspire to teach kids the benefits -- and fun -- that comes with being physically active or you want to help adults, seniors or athletes achieve new levels of fitness, you'll spend a lot of your time demonstrating skills and inspiring your charges. Career options in this field include teaching, coaching, training and more.
Perhaps the most obvious career choice for someone with a background in physical education is to become a physical education, or "PE," teacher in a high school, middle school, elementary school or college. PE teachers instruct students in the safe use of equipment, teach games and skills, and help students live healthy lifestyles. To become a PE teacher in a public school, you'll need a bachelor's degree in physical education or a related field, as well as a teaching certificate from the state in which you want to work. To obtain the teaching certificate, you'll need to take courses in pedagogy, child development and other educational subjects.
A physical education background can also come in handy for careers related to adult physical activity. People who major in physical education in college can go on to become an activities director on a cruise ship, in a country club or athletic facility or even in a prison. As the physical activities director, you'll be planning activities that work well for the particular population. That might include sporting activities, dances, outings such as hikes, fun runs or walks or active fundraisers. You might also help individuals utilize resources in the local area. For example, you might point a client toward a surfing workshop at a cruise port of call, or help a senior citizen find a walking group.
A physical education background lends itself well to a career as a coach -- whether that be coaching young people or college or professional athletes. In many states, coaches at the high school or even middle school level are required to have a teaching credential, or to take special coursework that prepares them for teaching. Having personal experience playing the particular sport you're coaching is a big help, but your degree in physical education may also provide you more in-depth knowledge of that sport or activity.
Fitness Instructor or Personal Trainer
Physical education majors can also become personal trainers, group fitness instructors or strength coaches. Some colleges offer coursework that allows you to obtain your certification in one of these fields at the same time as you're getting your PE degree. If that's not an option, your degree requirements will have likely covered anatomy, physiology and other subjects that will help you pass a certifying exam through the American Council on Exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine or another certifying body. Personal trainers and group fitness instructors don't typically need a college degree, but if you aspire to be a strength and conditioning coach through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, one of the prerequisites is a college degree.